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House Appropriation Committee Demolishes Hollywood's Excuses For Moving Copyright Office Out Of Library Of Congress

As we've discussed there's this stupid big fight going on these days, in which some in Congress -- mainly at the urging of the legacy entertainment industry -- are looking to move the Copyright Office out of its historical home in the Library of Congress. The first proposal to sort of (but not completely) do that, involved just making the head of the Copyright Office a Presidential appointment position, rather than (as now) appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The main reason that various members of Congress put forth in support of this change was that this would magically give the Copyright Office the freedom to modernize. Of course, there are few facts to support this argument. We broke the story about serious incompetence at the Copyright Office in managing its own modernization efforts, and there was also plenty of evidence that the current Librarian of Congress was successfully moving forward with a thorough modernization plan.

And, yet, the House Judiciary Committee still voted overwhelmingly to move the bill out of committee. Thankfully, it appears the bill is pretty much dead in the water for now, apparently in part because some people noticed that it's not really the Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction. Judiciary has power over issues related to copyright, but this isn't a bill about copyright, but about administration. That belongs elsewhere and apparently some folks are none too pleased that the Judiciary Committee went behind their backs on this effort.

And then there's this: last week in the Appropriations Committee's latest appropriations bill for the legislative branch, it pointed out that the Library was doing a good job in modernizing the Copyright Office. Here's the relevant section:

Copyright Modernization: The Committee is encouraged by the collaborative work between the United States Copyright Office (USCO) and the Library of Congress’s Office of the Chief Information Officer’s Office (OCIO) and is looking forward to the USCO’s revised provisional IT plan which is expected in early August. The Committee continues to support a shared-services approach with regards to commodity IT services. Copyright modernization is something the Committee fully supports and will continue to provide appropriate resources. As we go forward OCIO is encouraged to engage with stakeholders both in the Congressional-community and beyond to outline clear benchmarks for progress.

In other words, the very reason given by the Judiciary Committee for why we need a separate Copyright Office has been totally undermined by the Appropriations Committee, who actually took the time to figure out what was going on. Now, some of this might just be fighting over domains, but it raises even more questions about why some in Congress are so eager to yank the Copyright Office away from the Library of Congress at a time when the modernization program seems to be moving forward successfully.

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